A curious novel set in FRANCE
Novel set in SOUTH LONDON and HONG KONG
23rd May 2023
Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton, novel set in South London and Hong Kong.
A Grazia Book Club Pick for May 2023.
This is a dual timeline novel that opens in 1966, moving through into the 1970s, which then picks up in 1997 Hong Kong, the year of the handover of the island from the British to the Chinese.
In the 1960s Sook-Yin has been sent away from the island to make her own way in London, and she has started to train as a nurse. Her written language abilities let her down and she abandons that career path and takes up a nanny position, with a family that has connections to Hong Kong.
In 1997 Lily is living in London with only scant knowledge of her family’s history, and we soon discover that Sook-Yin was her mother, who died when Lily and her older sister Maya were relatively young. Her death occurred in Kowloon. And now, through the post, Lily receives notification from a solicitor that she is the beneficiary of a legacy. One of the conditions of this is that she goes to Hong Kong, which, after consideration, she finds an appealing option.
Once there, of course, there are people to meet and revelations aplenty to digest.
The author captures very well – using her own experience – what it can be like to be transposed from one culture to another and the issues that have to be faced.
The title itself is already indicative of the racism and disconnect that lie ahead for some of the characters, the specifics and meaning behind the title become clear during the course of the narrative. These are people who find that they struggle to fully integrate into either British or Hong Kong culture. Prejudices were clearly and constantly voiced by those around them.
The writing style is one of the most appealing elements of this novel, the prose is indeed sparkling, the story is written with alacrity and vivacity and it was that, that sustained my reading interest. The story can at times feel a little choppy, populated with quite a cast of characters and I yearned for a slightly deeper psychological understanding of the motivations behind some of the responses and actions.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Catch the author on Twitter @Chomsky1
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